World's protected areas threatened by climate change: study

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Washington, Dec 12 (UNI) Climate change can affect national parks, forest reserves and other protected areas around the world, altering conditions so severely that the resulting environment will be virtually new to the planet.

Scientists from Conservation International (CI) and the University of Maryland said after analysing the World Protected Areas Database with ten Global Climate Models and three different scenarios examined by the UN inter-governmental panel on climate change.

It was found that more than half the world's protected territory is vulnerable to impacts of climate change, with some regions facing the disappearance of current climatic conditions by 2100 or a transition to conditions not found on Earth in the previous century, according to a study presented at the UN climate change talks in Bali, Indonesia.

''We previously assumed that if the land is protected, then the plants and animals living there will persist,'' Science Daily quoted Sandy Andelman, lead author of the study and CI's vice president as saying.

Bhutan, Colombia, Cuba, Mexico and Sri Lanka are the few countries listed where 90 per cent or more of the total protected territory has climate conditions that will disappear globally.

However, the study indicates that climate change will cause increased extinctions of species unable to adapt to altered climatic conditions, and substantial changes to the natural ecosystems.

''We urgently need to better understand how climate change will affect life on Earth so we can develop solutions, and to do that we need consistent data about long-term trends at a very large scale,'' Ms Andelman said.

The study also identified ''refuge'' countries where protected areas face minimal risk from climate change, including Botswana, Libya, Myanmar, Namibia, Saudi Arabia, Sierra Leone and Somalia.

Ensuring the adequate protection of nature reserves in these countries will provide baseline information to help understand the dynamics of biological diversity relatively unaffected by climate change.

UNI

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